A human being: body/mind/spirit. An aging human being: an aging body/mind/spirit. The three are interwoven into a structure—a kind of triple helix that becomes more and more unique over time. It is vital to keep all three elements in mind whichever one is first and foremost.
A holistic approach to aging can be one antidote to the increasing medicalization of aging and the persistent fear-mongering mostly aimed at selling products and services. It can also offset the happy-happy-happy presentation of the later decades as one marvelous vacation after another (with a marvelous partner, of course). How to find the middle place where most of us live: sometimes happy, sometimes sad, sometimes worried, sometimes confident, sometimes ill, sometimes raring to go, sometimes lonely, sometimes content in a rich solitude?
Right now, in the US, there are more than 46 million of us folks over 65. That’s a lot of uniqueness! A lot of hopes and dreams! A lot of potential that is largely untapped! We are more than a plethora of consumers to be exploited! So there. End of rant.
What does holistic health care in the evening of life look like? Mind-care in the evening of life? Spiritual care in the evening of life?
First and foremost, it is respectful, especially of the client’s experience, knowledge and needs.
Second, there is real dialogue as opposed to consecutive (dueling) monologues. The kind of dialogue where I say something; you listen and consider and respond. Then I listen and consider and respond. Then you listen and consider and respond. There will be a fair amount of silence between sentences. There will be agreement and disagreement. Hopefully there will be an open exchange of ideas. New learning on both sides.
Third, there is affection, akin in a way to Carl Rogers unconditional positive regard. Warmth.
I have been in health care long enough to know that due to extreme time pressures and client loads this kind of encounter rarely happens in medical offices or hospital rooms. Mind-care is seldom discussed unless there is a glaring problem and perhaps not even then. Spiritual care in the evening of life is generally not on the to-do list for overworked clerics and parish staff.
But what if this was the culture of care across the spectrum especially in the evening of life?
We already have concierge medicine as an alternative kind of medical practice. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concierge_medicine
Psychologists and counselors abound. The field of spiritual direction is growing.
How many of us tap into these resources? I know cost is a factor but is it as big a factor as we are making it out to be? Is there a way to negotiate? For what problem is the out-of-pocket cost problem a solution? I think what needs to happen is for those of us in the evening of life to engage in some self-objectivity about what is working or not working in our lives. Physical health? Mental acuity? Matters of spirit, life, meaning? Relationships? What would it be like to go outside our comfort zones in order to engage in authentic dialogue about our situations? There are costs, sure, but also potential benefits.
Carl Rogers’ insights and ideas have been much on my mind the past few days—
“When I look at the world I’m pessimistic, but when I look at people I am optimistic.” (Source: https://www.quotes.net/quote/2127)
“People are just as wonderful as sunsets if I can let them be… When I look at a sunset, I don’t find myself saying, “Soften the orange a bit on the right hand corner”… I don’t try to control a sunset. I watch with awe as it unfolds. (Source: https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/102062.Carl_R_Rogers)
Purchase the Book: A Way of Being